Rebbetzin Rochie Pinson was young and newly married when she traveled with her husband to Kobe, Japan for the High Holidays to bring inspiration and Torah to the small Jewish community there. She soon learned that there was no kosher bakery in Kobe, and she was expected to bake challah for some two hundred people. After making many frantic phone calls, she developed a recipe she could follow, and she succeeded. Upon her return to New York, she was determined to continue improving her baking. As the weeks and months went by, the Rebbetzin came to understand that, “Just like flames, we give light to others and become brighter in the process. This is challah.”
The first section of the book has a philosophical and spiritual bent. “It is my prayer that through this book, we will grow to nurture ourselves – and the ones we love – so that we all rise to our fullest, most expansive, and transcendent selves, and maybe bake some awesome challahs along the way,” she writes. She continues with a discussion of women and challah, and the meaning we can find in the separate strands as they come together. Quotes by Torah sages infuse her exploration of each ingredient: flour, water, yeast, sugar, salt, oil, and eggs.
Turning to the recipes, she begins with the basic steps and techniques for baking challah. What follows are “Classic Challah Recipes,” “Holiday/Specialty Challah Recipes” (including a Shavuot Butter Challah), “Challah Recipes from Around the World,” “Challah Embellishments,” “Leftover Challah Recipes,” and “Challah Toppings and Accompaniments.” Both sweet and savory offerings are included. Pinson offers some unusual recipes, such as Fishy Challah, which is stuffed with tuna or salmon and baked in a fish form. Also intriguing is the Bridal Henna Challah. The section “Troubleshooting A Troublesome Dough” anticipates the questions bakers may have.
The numerous braiding techniques are described and illustrated with care. “The Laws and Customs of Challah” round out the book. This is truly an encyclopedia of challah in all its facets, appropriate for the beginner or veteran baker.